Being overweight and how to go about losing it!
Being overweight is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and degenerative conditions. It is a problem which should be tackled as actively as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking, but because it is not politically correct to accuse somebody of being overweight, this problem is glossed over.
Causes of obesity
Obesity is a problem resulting from western lifestyles. We do not see obesity in wild animals, neither is it seen in primitive communities. There are many aspects of western lifestyles which result in obesity.
- Addictive diets - the single largest problem is sugar and refined carbohydrates in the diet. These are addictive because when eaten, they have profound psychological effects; therefore we eat for psychological reasons rather than physical reasons and so we do not simply stop eating when we feel physically full. Carbohydrates result in high levels of insulin, which brings blood sugar levels down by shunting sugars into fats. Many people find that despite eating relatively low calorie diets they continue to gain weight or struggle to lose it because the carbohydrate causes these high insulin levels. See Hypoglycaemia
- Micronutrient deficiencies - western diets are micronutrient deficient. Micronutrient deficiencies result in cravings as the body looks for those essential items. In the wild we often see animals eating soil, stripping bark off trees, chewing antlers or bones, or seeking out salty rocks to help correct this. Children will sometimes eat soil if allowed! I remember one young boy who used to chew coal. This craving is particularly noticeable in pregnancy, when micronutrient demands are high. Craving to replenish micronutrients means that we end up eating more food than is good for us. We should all be taking micronutrient supplements. See Nutritional Supplements
- Lack of sleep - because of western lifestyles we lose sleep. Our average requirement is for nine hours of sleep between 9.30pm and 6.30am. If we do not get sufficient sleep, that causes stress and when stressed, we are more likely to comfort eat carbohydrates. There is a well-recognised association between lack of sleep and being overweight. There is a particularly vicious cycle here because if we use carbohydrates to cope with that stress, this results in hypoglycaemia and hypoglycaemia is the commonest cause of disturbed sleep. See Sleep is vital for good health
- Toxic stress - we live in an increasingly polluted world. Many toxins are fat-soluble and cannot be easily excreted. Therefore, in the short term the body dumps these toxins in fat and that helps protect us in the short term from toxic stress. However, the body is then loath to mobilise this fat when required because that results in an acute poisoning. See Detoxification, Detoxing - Far Infrared Sauna (FIRS).
- Hypothyroidism - we are currently seeing an epidemic of hypothyroidism and there are many possible reasons for that. The thyroid gland is the accelerator pedal of our car and sets how fast the metabolism goes, i.e. how fast the body turns the food we eat into energy needed to maintain life. If thyroid hormones are low, then mitochondria go slow so that less glucose is used up for life and the amount "saved" or "not used up" is laid down as fat (See Hypothyroidism - diagnosis of)
- Lack of exercise - lack of exercise is a major cause of obesity in Western cultures. We are intrinsically lazy and the ready supply of petrol for our cars makes this much worse! Exercise works on many levels in the prevention of obesity. Firstly, we burn up energy when we exercise; secondly, exercise warms us up and increases our basal metabolic rate so that we burn more calories for some hours subsequently; and thirdly, exercise increases muscle mass and so again we burn more calories at rest. This explains why men are able to eat more food than women. For many exercise is boring, but doing Exercise - the right sort means 12 minutes a week is all you need. This creates a large muscle mass which means you burn more calories at rest, and depletes muscle glycogen which helps with hypoglycaemica and insulin resistance. The right sort of exercise is required when one gets stuck at a weight and don't seem able to lose more. Those suffering with CFS should take care as to when they may start exercise - please see Pattern of recovery
- Allergy - allergies to foods result in fluid retention (very often when people cut out offending foods they lose half a stone without trying). Allergies to foods also cause low-grade inflammation in the gut. When the immune system is activated (as in inflammation), it requires a ready source of energy and to deal with this requirement, fat is dumped around the gut. This explains why apple shaped people are at greater risk of heart disease than pear shaped people - fat round the gut means that there is inflammation round the gut and inflammation in the gut causes inflammation in blood vessels and therefore damage. See Stone Age Diet. In fact, more often I now prescribe the ketogenic diet - please see Ketogenic diet - the practical details and My book The PK Cookbook - Go Paleo-ketogenic and get the best of both worlds.
- Poor mitochondrial function - mitochondria represent the engine of our car. Every cell in the body has its own supply of mitochondria. Indeed, the heart is more than 50% by weight mitochondria! If the engine of our car goes slow then less energy will be consumed and therefore there will be a tendency to put on weight. As we age, mitochondria start to run more slowly and this partly explains "middle aged spread". As we age, we need less energy, but we need more micronutrients since the biochemistry becomes less efficient as we get older. See CFS - The Central Cause: Mitochondrial Failure and Mitochondrial Function Profile
- Stress - When one is stressed there is a release of the stress hormones, one of which is insulin. The problem with insulin is that running high levels reduces blood sugar levels by shunting sugar into fat. As sugar is shunted into fat, so blood sugar levels fall resulting in hypoglycaemia and the unpleasant symptoms that go with that. So very often people mitigate the effects of stress by snacking on sugar or fast carbohydrate foods, but the problem with this is that it causes one to runs high blood sugar levels, high insulin levels and therefore causes a tendency to put on weight readily. "Middle age spread" is a symptom of chronic long-term unremitting stress. This is often accompanied by poor adrenal function as the adrenal gland also exhausts. See Adrenal Gland - the gear box of the car (DHEA and cortisol) – underactive and Adrenal stress profile - salivary
How to lose excess weight
Once we understand the underlying mechanisms that result in obesity, we can then tailor a regime to get well. Conventional medicine has an all too simplistic approach to weight loss, which almost invariably fails. Conventional medicine states that if you eat fewer calories then you will lose weight. The problem with eating fewer calories is that the body quickly adapts to this by shutting down its rate of metabolism. This makes us cold, lethargic and depressed, which is not conducive to weight loss! Dieting is not just a case of counting calories!
In order of importance one should put the following in place:
- Eat a Stone Age Diet - i.e. a diet of low glycaemic index which avoids the major allergens. More often I now prescribe the ketogenic diet - please see Ketogenic diet - the practical details and My book The PK Cookbook - Go Paleo-ketogenic and get the best of both worlds.
- Tackle addictions so that one stops eating for psychological reasons. The obvious addiction is to sugar and refined carbohydrates, but chocolate and alcohol all carry a calorie burden. Furthermore, one addiction triggers another - alcohol upsets the blood sugar so you then need a carb snack!
- Take my standard package of micronutrients. See Nutritional Supplements - what everybody should be taking all the time even if nothing is wrong
- Sleep well.
- Try detox regimes to mobilise toxins from the fat and the body.
- Check thyroid function.
- Introduce Far Infra Red saunaing - this raises metabolic rates and helps to detoxify
- Address issues of stress and adrenal fatigue. There is a general assumption that one should not be allowed to feel hungry. Many people automatically reach for food as soon as they get this sensation. Actually, it is normal to feel hungry sometimes - it is what drove primitive man to greater effort! Indeed, the hungry rat, fed just enough to survive, outlives his well-fed brother by 50%. Under-feeding increases longevity reliably well! If all the above interventions do not result in weight loss, then one must reduce portion size and, in the short term, expect to be hungry. The body soon adjusts!
- Nutritional Supplements
- Sleep is vital for good health
- Detoxing - Far Infrared Sauna (FIRS)
- Hypothyroidism - diagnosis of
- Exercise - the right sort
- Pattern of recovery
- Stone Age Diet
- CFS - The Central Cause: Mitochondrial Failure
- Adrenal Gland - the gear box of the car (DHEA and cortisol) – underactive
- Nutritional Supplements - what everybody should be taking all the time even if nothing is wrong
- Ketogenic diet - the practical details
- My book The PK Cookbook - Go Paleo-ketogenic and get the best of both worlds.
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